New York won’t be sleeping very easy next Sunday night. Unless union representatives from the Long Island Railroad reach a contract agreement with the Metropolitan Transit Authority this weekend, the 5,000 or so LIRR employees the city depends on to transport millions of riders to work will go on strike starting Monday. The main bone of contention is over a 17 percent wage increase that the LIRR workers believe should be spread over a six-year contract period instead of the MTA’s proposed seven-year contract. Aside from this one hitch, the deal is as good as done. However, there is never a guarantee as to how these things will work out, and New Yorkers are already taking the necessary precautions.
Why so much drama over such a small wage discrepancy in the contract? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides an interesting perspective.
Maslow saw the path to achieving happiness as a pyramid, with the most fundamental aspects providing a base for everything else above it. Maslow argued that if these “base” needs weren’t met, everything above it would be impossible to achieve. This pyramid diagram was adopted by the business world long ago as a way to understand worker psychology, and how to keep employees happy, engaged, and productive.
Mind over Money
The two most basic needs – Physiological and Safety – are directly correlated to the employee’s salary, no two ways about it. We need a salary to achieve those things in society. If the employee feels these needs aren’t being met, it’s a non-starter. Wage disputes strike a primal chord within us, and the MTA negotiators are dealing with strong psychological barriers. In short, people need to feel secure before they can work, and the extra year on the MTA’s wage proposal is enough to sow doubt.
Survival of the Fairest
When employees feel that the needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid are not met by an employer, it usually portends trouble. Every employer must struggle with the push-and-pull of finding the proper balance of overall compensation that enables employees to stop worrying about survival and invest in the work being done.